Austrians turn on ex-chancellor's party after corruption claims

ZURICH (REUTERS) – Austrians have turned on the conservative Austrian People’s Party (OVP), the senior partner in their coalition government, after party leader Sebastian Kurz quit as chancellor over corruption allegations, according to a poll published on Sunday (Oct 17).

Support for the conservative OVP has crashed from 34 per cent to 26 per cent in the wake of the affair, according to the survey published by newspaper Kurier on Sunday.

The outcome puts the party, which installed former foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg as the new chancellor, only marginally ahead of the opposition Social Democrats (SPO)’s approval rating of 24 per cent, the paper said.

Mr Kurz, 35, quit as chancellor under pressure from his junior coalition party, the Greens, after prosecutors placed him under investigation on suspicion of various degrees of bribery, corruption and breach of trust.

He denies any wrongdoing.

Mr Kurz remains leader of his party and is now also its top lawmaker in Parliament, triggering opposition claims he is still exercising power behind the scenes.

Some 71 per cent of the people questioned in the Kurier survey thought Mr Kurz’s resignation as chancellor was justified, with only 22 per cent saying it was unwarranted.

Anti-corruption prosecutors say they suspect conservative officials then in the Finance Ministry of using state funds to pay for manipulated polling and coverage favourable to Mr Kurz to appear in a newspaper starting in 2016, when he was seeking to become party leader.

A poll by Unique Research for Profil magazine published on Saturday also showed how the Kurz affair has damaged the OVP.

The conservatives polled only 25 per cent with Mr Schallenberg as candidate, 10 per cent down on earlier polls and the same level as the Social Democrats.

Two-thirds of respondents told the Unique Research poll they thought there was substance to the allegations against Mr Kurz, while 23 per cent said they thought there was nothing to the affair.

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